Readers’ wildlife photographs

Reader Mike Hannah send some photos from the Land of Kiwis and notes (indented):

I understand that you are visiting New Zealand next year – so I have attached three photos of endemic species to whet your appetite. All the pictures were taken in an urban sanctuary called Zealandia situated in the suburbs of Wellington. It’s a great place to visit and people whose homes back onto the predator-proof fence that surrounds the park are treated to the calls of wild Kiwi at night.

Kereru, the New Zealand Pigeon (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) a big bird with an unfortunately small head. But its plumage is beautiful.


Kakariki,  a New Zealand parakeet – this species is the red-crowned parakeet (Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae):


Tuatara,  the famous non lizard – the last ryncocephalian, Sphenodon punctatus . I was told that this is a young one about 7 years old. I understand (but I may be wrong) that the Tuatara in the sanctuary are all the result of the breeding program at Victoria University where I work.


As an aside, Tuatara is the also the name of an excellent craft beer brewery in Wellington.

Reader Christopher Moss documents the continuing efforts of squirrels to get access to his bird feeder. He says this:

The birds are getting to much food, so they are attempting a little redistribution of wealth. Perhaps that’s why they are red squirrels!



And one beautiful moth photo from reader Simon Lawson:

I was taken with the post by Greg on the snake mimicking spider and posted a comment here.

Attached is the photo of the Atlas Moth  (Archaeoattacus staudingeri) I referenced in that comment as another potential snake mimic.  Not sure what the model candidate would be, but there may be herpetologist readers of the site who could have a stab.

JAC: Simon is presumably referring to the pattern of the round curved tips of the forewings (see photos at bottom):


That impeachable fount of biology information, The Daily Mail, suggests that the Atlas moth is mimicking a cobra:



(From the Daily Mail): When threatened, the insect drops to the ground and slowly fans its wings (pictured) in a movement that also looks similar to that of the snake’s head. The rare insect is typically found in the forests of South East Asia.




  1. Kevin
    Posted November 18, 2016 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Wow. Amazing wings. Curious how many generations before a snake head could be depicted on a butterfly wing.

  2. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted November 18, 2016 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    here is a lagniappe from Twitter. I did not know this was a thing. Apparently it is.

    Looks to me as if it’s people riffing on the “Cat in The Hat” books.
    I am just wondering what Gus’s response would be to putting a hat on to protect his frost-bitten ears. I suspect either withering disdain, or a lesson in the need for heavy-duty chainmail.

  3. Christopher
    Posted November 18, 2016 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    I don’t quite get why we should think a caterpillar or butterfly would mimic any specific snake species, especially ones that do not share the same territory. I would assume that any general snake-like appearance would serve, as even a garden hose or bit of rope can trigger a snake response in human and non-human animals.

    • Posted November 18, 2016 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      It may be a generalized snake mimic, or it may mimic an especially dangerous snake in the same area. There are a fair number of experiments showing that in fact the better mimicry is, the better it deters predators. A caterpillar itself, shaped like a tiny hose, is not going to trigger a snake-avoidance response in a predator.

  4. Dominic
    Posted November 18, 2016 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    lovely – thanks all for sharing

  5. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted November 18, 2016 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    There is a difference among the possible snake mimic pictures. Simon’s moth shows both ‘eyes’ of the snake, but the other pictures are more a snake profile, showing one eye.

  6. Don Mackay
    Posted November 18, 2016 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Jerry coming to New Zealand??
    When, where?

  7. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted November 18, 2016 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Bloody wood pigeons. I’ll be walking along a deserted track in the Waitakere Ranges, deep in the bush (and unlikely to meet anybody else in a five-mile hike) when from just beside me, and six feet away and really really loud there’s a massive ‘Whut whut whut whut’ like a helicopter as one of the damn things blasts off. Startles the living daylights out of me.

    They’re big birds – more like the size of a duck than a common statue pigeon – and are really loud fliers.

    The native birds I like best are Pukekos – a sort of swamp hen – which don’t fly much, but have adapted well to ‘civilisation’.

    They’re fairly tame, maybe because nobody wants to eat them. (Old recipe for cooking Pooks: place pukeko in a pot with a rock, boil until the rock goes soft, throw away the pook and eat the rock)


  8. Mark R.
    Posted November 18, 2016 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    These are great, thanks!

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